"Goblins" Flops

 


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In mid-1994, HarperPrism hitched a ride on the “X-Files" bandwagon, commissioning someone to author three books based on Chris Carter's hit television series. These books would not simply be novelizations of favorite “X-Files" episodes, but original stories from the imagination of a fellow fan - popular horror author, Charles Grant. Grant, who is easily one of the more prominent authors in the horror genre, seemed an intelligent choice for the project. With so many discriminating fans out there, this was no job for an amateur.

"Goblins, " the first of the “X-Files" books, was released in December of 1994, an early holiday present for fans. Even before its release, on-line X-Philes buzzed about the forthcoming novel via e-mail and through popular on-line interest groups. But for many X-Philes, finding “Goblins" became something of a crusade. Some bookstores hadn't ordered the books at all, and in those bookstores that had “Goblins" in stock, the few copies sold out immediately.

Grant, having authored more than a dozen horror books, is no stranger to plot, as he proves right from the start in the first of the “X-Files" books. In true “X-Files" fashion, the teaser, or X-File, is set up in Chapter 1, complete with unsuspecting victim Grady Pierce, a brutal murder with a bayonet as the murder weapon, and something that is terribly, terribly out of the ordinary - a killer who seems to step directly out of a brick wall.

In Chapter 2, Grant introduces Special Agent Fox Mulder, and this is where I encountered one of the novel's main problems - characterization. Grant, as a rule, does a fine job with characterization, but from the moment Mulder is introduced, it is evident that this is not the agent that X-Philes worldwide have come to know and admire. The agents in these pages are strangers. Grant seemed to have a bit of a God complex, rewriting our beloved characters to his own liking.

In “Goblins, " Mulder's interests seem to lie in beer-drinking and the snug satin shorts that a woman nearby is wearing. He swears often, and demonstrates little of the off-beat humor that appears weakly on episodes of “The X-Files".

The same is true, though not as blatantly, for Dana Scully, who is not brought into the story until well into Chapter 4. Scully's character seems somehow watered-down, a lesser version of the Scully that Chris Carter brings to life every Sunday. There is a stiffness in how the agents interact, and little of the warmth the television series has worked hard to build between Scully and Mulder over the years.

Carter and the writers working on the show choose to characterize differently. Any tried and true X-Phile knows Mulder has a recurring interest in *** ography, and Scully - although a self-proclaimed skeptic - wears a cross around her neck as the symbol of her faith. Carter leaks this information in bits so small fans feel they are putting together pieces of a puzzle, week by week. If HarperPrism was looking for constancy between the television series and the series of novels, then they failed miserably.

Grant needed more subtlety in this novel. Subtlety is what attracts many fans to the show, prompting them to videotape episodes to view over and over, gleaning shades of meaning from each viewing.

The storyline is engrossing, delving into the concept of a human chameleon, able to adapt to its environment so well that it is like a moth on a white wall - virtually invisible. “Goblins" also has several wonderfully colorful characters such as Elly Lang, the local eccentric, who coins the tern “Goblins" to describe the killer, and Mulder's old friend, Carl Barelli, who seeks Mulder's help in the case for reasons purely personal. Barelli also spends a better part of Chapter 4 trying to impress Scully, which is simultaneously frustrating and humorous.

"Goblins" is a novel only worth reading if you're willing to reserve judgment on Grant's representation of Scully and Mulder. It is suspenseful, has a solid plot and a taste of the government conspiracy theory that has helped make “The X-Files" so popular, but if you're an X-Phile like me, you'll get hung up on the poor characterization time and again. In my humble opinion, you'd be better off watching your videotaped episodes or visiting one of the many fan fiction websites than spending the time wading through pages of writing on Mulder and Scully's doppelgangers.

Lisa is an author on http://www.Writing.Com/ which is a site for Writers .

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